Move over high blood pressure: There’s a new ‘silent killer’

For decades we’ve been warned that high blood pressure is the “silent killer.”

It has that reputation because it often has no obvious symptoms. But all the while, beneath the surface, it’s damaging blood vessels, causing heart disease and raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

However, it seems like there’s a new threat that may be just as pervasive and sneaky, making up 60 percent of the average American adult’s diet.

From fizzy drinks to cereals and packaged snacks to processed meat — ultra-processed foods are industrially made, using ingredients not normally found in a domestic kitchen and not previously encountered by human physiology.

Not only have these foods been linked to cancer, heart disease and 30 other conditions, but they’re cutting life expectancy short — causing experts who authored a commentary published in The American Journal of Medicine to suggest they may indeed be “the new silent killer.”

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Unnatural digestion makes a body sick

Ultra-processed foods barely resemble real food. The process itself strips away healthy nutrients, then packs in additives — and not just oil, fat, added sugar, starch and sodium.

They use emulsifiers such as carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, carboxymethylcellulose, polysorbate and soy lecithin, and various other unpronounceable ingredients that lengthen shelf life, stabilize and enhance flavors and textures.

Our bodies realize these products are not real food — and it’s most obvious in how we digest them…

When we eat whole foods, including fruits, vegetables and meat, they are digested slowly. The big benefit here is that we absorb fewer calories and experience lower glycemic and triglyceride loads.

But the digestion of ultra-processed foods is the exact opposite — and how they lead to weight gain and metabolic disease…

According to the authors, one plausible mechanism to explain the hazards is that ultra-processed foods contain emulsifiers and other additives that the mammalian gastrointestinal tract mostly does not digest. They may act as a food source for our microbiota, and as such may be creating a dysbiotic microbiome that can, in the right host, promote disease.

That’s harmful enough, but Allison H. Ferris, M.D., senior author, an associate professor and chair, Department of Medicine, and director of the internal medicine residency program at FAU Schmidt College of Medicine, stated “… even if the troublesome additives were removed from the ultra-processed food, there would still be concern for an over-consumption of these products possibly leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”

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The long-term results of eating ultra-processed foods

Although the scientists say that more research is needed to confirm their biggest fears, they point out that there has been a significant increase in colorectal cancer in the U.S., especially in young adults who shouldn’t have to worry about the disease.

And if we’re wise, we don’t need to wait for some official warning to come down from the powers that be. We all know how long it took before the dangers of tobacco were taken seriously enough to require warning labels on cigarette packs or “no smoking” to be considered a must to avoid not just lung cancer but heart disease.

The time to stop including these ultra-processed ‘silent killers’ in your diet is now.

So instead of picking up that frozen dinner, box of cereal, hot dogs, sandwich meat or any host of foods that are convenient but dangerous, it’s time for all of us to go back to how things used to be done to decide what we should eat for dinner.

It’s time to get back to whole foods and cooking them at home. Reach for blood pressure-lowering spices and the safe salt alternative to make your homecooked meals just as tasty and satisfying.

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Could ultra-processed foods be the new ‘silent’ killer? – EurekAlert!

Virginia Tims-Lawson

By Virginia Tims-Lawson

Virginia Tims-Lawson has dedicated her life to researching and studying natural health after her mother had a stroke that left her blind in one eye at the age of 47, and her grandmother and two great uncles died from heart attacks. Spurred by her family history, Virginia’s passion to improve her and her family’s health through alternative practices, nutrients and supplements has become a mission she shares through her writing. She is founder of the nutritional supplement company Peak Pure & Natural®.